Iâ€™m no particular fan of Miss California, whatever her name is. You know. The woman who said that as far as sheâ€™s concerned, marriage is for a man and a woman, â€śNo offense to anyone out there!â€ť
But nor am I a fan of Perez Hilton, who called the hapless contestant â€śthe B word,â€ť and told an interviewer that heâ€™d really like to call her â€śthe C word.â€ť Of the many possible responses to those who disagree with us on the subject of marriage equality, nasty name-calling is as counterproductive as they come, not to mention uncivil. If I had to have a beer with one of the two individuals at odds in this scenario, Iâ€™d pick Miss California. But Iâ€™d make it a Campari and soda.
Oh, and according to blogactivist Michael Petrelis, Hilton never gave a dime to the No on 8 campaign, even as he presents himself as a champion of marriage rights. Surely someone this successful could have spared a few bucks for our desperate fundraisers.
Speaking of marriage, the â€śGathering Stormâ€ť ad produced by the National Organization for Marriage has now spawned at least a dozen parodies ranging from hysterical to dumb. The highly spoofable commercial may well backfire on its sponsors and end up a victim of its own melodramatics.
Weâ€™ll see. The problem is that the anti-marriage ad is presumably being aired on TV, while the take-offs are limited to You Tube. I wonder how much actual airtime NOM has bought? Maybe a real reporter should look into this.
I donâ€™t feel like being real this morning. I got up at five am to watch meteors, and saw two of them, but the effort has left me fatigued. I can tell you that NOMâ€™s ad campaign has an alleged $1.5 million budget, and is supposed to target New England and Iowa. I donâ€™t know how much airtime costs, but considering the weird infomercials that have erupted on prime time cable during this recession, it canâ€™t be that much.
Seriously. Have you seen the one with â€śBobâ€ť and his â€śmale enhancementâ€ť techniques?
Interestingly, I just googled Bob and discovered that the head of the male enhancement company, Steven Warshak of Berkeley Premium Nutraceuticals was indicted for conspiracy, money laundering, mail fraud, bank fraud and wire fraud. Five other people, including Steveâ€™s mom, were also accused of billing people without authorization, offering fake money back guarantees and other business enhancement techniques.
Hereâ€™s the kicker. The article I read was published in September of 2006. An article two years down the road revealed that Warshak was convicted and sent to prison for 25 years, while his company was fined $500 million and went bankrupt. His landlord bought the remains of the enterprise for a few million in January and continues to sell reportedly worthless sex pills on a â€śfree trialâ€ť basis to a limitless population of gullible men with brains as flaccid as their nether regions.
Anyway, if these bozos can buy prime time TV, so can the NOMites.
Aside from a continuing litany of the torture and murder of gay men in Iraq, thereâ€™s not a tremendous amount of breaking news out there. I generally steer clear of the brutality inflicted on gay men outside the U.S.. First, because itâ€™s horrific. Second, because I can never figure out for sure whatâ€™s factual. Third, because the stories of killing gay men often come from the same places where people also think nothing of killing teenaged girls who show an ankle. And finally, because itâ€™s hard to focus on when the New Hampshire state senate will vote on marriage equality when youâ€™ve just described Iraqi militia closing shut menâ€™s anuses with a type of super glue, feeding them laxatives and watching their resulting deaths.
That report came from an interview with Yina Mohammed, a human rights activist in Iraq, in a story published on the website of alarabiya.net. As far as I can tell, the New Hampshire senate will vote on the marriage bill in the next few days and/or by the end of April, which is pretty much the same thing.
See? Not only does such juxtaposition jar the senses and the soul. But it dissolves the subtle joie de vivre that I try to infuse into this oft-depressing column. If manâ€™s inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn, the New Hampshire senateâ€™s imprecise schedule makes several of us sigh and roll our eyes. Surely both subjects cannot coexist in the same paragraph.
Gay Agenda Needs Work
I suppose you could call Congressional hearings on the hate crime bill â€śbreaking news,â€ť although that would be your definition. Iâ€™d call it same old, same old - a rehash of our outdated federal legislative agenda, full of sound and self-satisfaction, signifying next to nothing. I have no doubt that we will pass hate crimes, along with some insipid version of the long-suffering Employment Nondiscrimination Act in this Congress. These laws will be signed with fanfare, accompanied by pretentious pronouncements by various politicians and gay rights honchos, and press releases dotted with words like â€ślandmarkâ€ť â€śhistoricâ€ť and â€śmilestone.â€ť
Indeed, passage of either or both of these bills will be significant, since Congress has never before passed a pro-gay piece of legislation. But what infuriates me, as Iâ€™ve said before, is the waste of political capital on symbols of progress.
If hate crime laws actually stopped or slowed hate crimes, that would be one thing. But they donâ€™t. We have them in place in many states. They are rarely enforced and certainly donâ€™t act as a deterrent.
As for ENDA, passage of any version will be not unhelpful to our cause. But the toothless, genderless, loopholed bill that has obsessed our political advocates for so many years is not likely to act as more than a speed bump on the road to workplace discrimination. Why not add sexual orientation to the list of categories protected under current federal law? Why have a stand-alone bill just for us? Why continue to take little bitty baby steps when Democrats now control both houses of Congress as well as the White House?
Hell, I can even imagine courts deciding that anti-gay discrimination cannot be construed as a violation of Title VII (the main federal law that covers everyone else) simply because Congress created a distinct regulation for gay men and lesbians. Ergo, my imaginary court decides, ENDA and only ENDA will govern any workplace bias case that involves a gay person, even if that person might have argued sex discrimination under Title VII.
After these two bills pass into law, if indeed they do, you can be certain that Congress will pat itself on the back and retire from gay rights lawmaking for the foreseeable future. Shall we repeal Donâ€™t Ask Donâ€™t Tell? Repeal all or part of the Defense of Marriage Act? Admit the permanent partners of bi-national gay couples into the U.S.? Whoa there, Nelly! We just passed hate crimes and ENDA! Letâ€™s slow down here just a little bit. Change doesnâ€™t come overnight!
Imagine if we had pulled hate crimes and ENDA off our Official Gay Rights Legislation Wish List last summer and come up with a basic partner law that a) recognized legal marriages for federal purposes, and b) excluded married service members from Donâ€™t Ask Donâ€™t Tell. That would have carved the guts out of DOMA and Donâ€™t Ask, and provided a small avenue towards equal treatment for any gay couple within a plane ride to Iowa, Canada, Connecticut, Vermont or Massachusetts. Donâ€™t you think we could have passed that in a year or two if we made it our top priority and held everyoneâ€™s feet to the fire? Remember, Congress has never passed a gay rights bill, they owe us one, and many lawmakers want to do something constructive.
So if Congress is kicking us down the road, and they are, we have only ourselves and our tepid strategies to blame. Just donâ€™t make me get all giddy and giggly over the hate crime bill hearings. I wonâ€™t do it!
Murder and Mayhem Follows Day of Silence
So, the Day of Silence annual student gay rights demonstration has come and gone, as has its pathetic conservative shadow, the Day of Truth.
Surprisingly, I didnâ€™t get much of any news reports on the goings on, so I had to google-news the subject. The headlines were fairly dull; â€śStudents go silent for national day of protest,â€ť â€śJackson High participates in Day of Silence,â€ť â€śDay of Silence attracts 100.â€ť
But I was struck by two more interesting stories, one headlined: â€śDay of Silence Evokes Opposition, Death Threats,â€ť and another that said: â€śIntolerance Marks Pro-Gay Day of Silence.â€ť Sure enough, a closer look revealed the smeared fingerprints of the conservative Christian spin machine as both stories were products of far rights news wires. The items were both based on a voice mail received by Karen England of the anti-gay Capital Resource Institute in California in which the caller suggests England commit suicide. England had apparently written an op-ed urging students to walk out of class on the big Day.
Not to belittle Englandâ€™s threat, but if thatâ€™s the worst thing conservatives can dig up on the Day of Silence, Iâ€™d say the kids were pretty well behaved.
The only other newsworthy event was a mini-crisis at a school in Medford, Oregon, where students in the Gay Straight Alliance were not allowed to post fliers for the Day of Silence on the bulletin board. A word from Lambda seems to have set them straight, so to speak.
And while I was checking out Lambdaâ€™s website, I was reminded that our legal eagles filed suit against a recalcitrant school in New York earlier this month, insisting that the authorities allow the formation of a Gay Straight Alliance in the Indian River Central School District. I didnâ€™t even have time to tell you about this suit (well, actually I deliberately skipped it last week) before the matter was mostly settled. The district has agreed to support the GSA, but Lambda is continuing to sue for damages on behalf of a student who was severely harassed.
I was looking up some stuff about the Kentucky Supreme Court when I got waylaid by a website that contains anecdotes from grumpy waiters and waitresses called something like Stained Apron.
But before I get into that, I should tell you that the Kentucky Supreme Court will review the question of whether the state can toss money at an anti-gay Baptist college without violating the separation of church and state, not to mention state law. A lower court said no.
Anyway, the Stained Apron comments ran the gamut from amusing to weird. Obviously, no one likes demanding, obnoxious diners, who send things back, yell at the waiter and leave a lousy tip. But some of these people went further, complaining about diners who didnâ€™t pronounce things correctly, bitching at tables that didnâ€™t immediately stop their conversations to hear the specials, and then, worrisomely, objecting to people who make them repeat the salad dressings because they werenâ€™t paying attention.
I do that! And Iâ€™m a perfectly cordial, respectful, 20 percent tipping diner. But I go out to dinner to talk to friends and socialize. Iâ€™m often not listening during the specials or side dishes or whatever. Itâ€™s a restaurant, not Con Law class with Professor Blackensop.
I have my own list of things I donâ€™t like, although I donâ€™t blame the waiters, I blame some kind of restaurant marketing cabal. A few years ago, as I wrote at the time, all the waiters and waitresses in the world stopped asking â€śis everything alright?â€ť and started asking â€śhow does everything taste?â€ť It was creepy. Like they had all gotten a secret memo, whether it be the taco place on the corner or the fancy French bistro in midtown.
Then, they started asking â€śdo you need change?â€ť even if the bill was $26 and you left two twenties. I felt cheap when I said yes.
And now, the latest thing that I hate is: â€ścan I start you off with some appetizers for the table?â€ť
This new question hits either right at the start, or when the drinks arrive, but before the group has a chance to make complete decisions. Itâ€™s a trick! We are being urged to place an impulsive order, en masse, prior to selecting our main meals. Perhaps only one of us would have ordered an appetizer. Maybe no one. But all it takes is one hungry person to pop off his or her mouth and suddenly a plate of buffalo wings or a pile of cheese sticks lands on the table like a lead balloon.
In the worst case, itâ€™s a bunch of goddamn calamari, one of the few things that I hate and everyone else loves. Itâ€™s like eating fried spiders and rubber bands. Suffice to say, the tactic annoys me.